My Beauty Uniform: Nicki Sebastian

My Beauty Uniform: Nicki Sebastian

Photographer Nicki Sebastian recently moved from Brooklyn to L.A., which may or may not have made us cry. She’s easily one of the funniest people we know, with the best eyeliner to boot. Here, she shares her tried-and-true tips, along with the makeup that made it through the NYC triathlon (!) and a hilarious secret ritual she only does behind closed doors…

My Beauty Uniform: Nicki Sebastian

Do you wear makeup?
Yes! I love products, I love trying them, I love collecting them. I wish I could be one of those people who just rolls out of bed and goes outside, but I like my things. I’m never not wearing a cat eye, which I’ve done since eighth grade. It’s a little embarrassing to admit that, but if it ain’t broke… At this point, it’s become part of my face. I usually rotate products and try new things, but for liner I always use the Revlon Colorstay 16-hour Eyeliner in Black-Brown. I’ve literally run marathons (and one triathlon) in my eye makeup and the Revlon made it through.

Since you’re so practiced, what are your tips for applying eye makeup?
It’s muscle memory now; I could probably put it on with my eyes closed. My biggest tip is that it’s all about drawing little strokes and then connecting them. Also, you can’t be afraid to go very close or even into your lash line. After I put on my liner, I use L’Oreal Paris Voluminous Mascara in Carbon Black. It’s wonderful for all-over application, detail work, lower lashes. I’ve tried everything and I still go back to the drugstore one. It’s really the best.

My Beauty Uniform: Nicki Sebastian

What about other types of makeup?
For my face, I use Bare Minerals Complexion Rescue in Ginger. I’ve tried a million foundations and tinted moisturizers, and this one is the best for moisture and coverage. Because I’m a mom who doesn’t sleep, I have major dark circles and I use Bare Minerals Stroke of Light eye brightener. I apply it in a little upside-down triangle, which has changed my whole game. I also use Clinique Chubby Stick Sculpting Highlighter along my cheekbones. It’s the perfect amount of shimmer without looking like you stepped out of a 90’s Lisa Frank ad. Because I always do a dark eye, I keep the lip neutral.

My Beauty Uniform: Nicki Sebastian

When did you first discover beauty products?
I grew up mostly with my dad, who’s a musician, and even though he was great about letting me experiment with my look, he was clueless about teaching me to do things like shave my legs or apply makeup. There was no formal instruction in the household. I remember once I was at a friend’s house, and it was the first time I tried eyeliner — white eyeliner. Something clicked. I remember wearing it to school the next day. I don’t think I got any compliments, in fact someone may have asked what happened to me, but I noticed there was a marked difference in the way people regarded my overall look. Sassy, YM, Jane magazines — those became my bibles. Ever since then, I’ve been a makeup marketer’s dream.

My Beauty Uniform: Nicki Sebastian

Have you ever had any regrettable beauty moments?
The year before I started wearing makeup, I got a horrendous bowl cut. I saw a photo of a career-focused woman in the JCPenney catalog, who had an awesome Linda Evangelista look. I took it to my dad’s barber and said, “Can you do this to me?” He very confidently started cutting away, and I got a big old mushroom cut. So after that, I went in the opposite direction and started feminizing my routine.

My Beauty Uniform: Nicki Sebastian

Do you ever change things up for special occasions?
I tend to wear the same look every single day. I even did my usual makeup for my wedding! But this reminds me of a story. Years ago, on our third or fourth date, my now-husband Roni and I went to a New York Knicks game. I thought I would get super fangirl and show him how I can go to sporting events. I bought a whole orange-and-blue outfit, including striped athletic socks. I also wore blue eyeshadow. It was a bold move for an early date. He didn’t say anything to me then, and we obviously kept dating and went on to become much more serious. But years later, he was like, “Do you remember that outfit??” I don’t know what I was thinking! We still look back on that and laugh.

My Beauty Uniform: Nicki Sebastian

How do you groom your brows?
Because I do such a bold eye, I fill in my brows to balance it out. I use the Anastasia Brow Wiz in Taupe, which is slightly lighter than my natural color. It’s a tiny, tiny pencil, and I use little strokes to fill them in. Then I use Glossier Boy Brow in Blond to shape them, and I swear it adds brows to my brows. My brows are victims of middle and high school over-plucking, and this stuff plumps them up.

My Beauty Uniform: Nicki Sebastian

You’ve been a serious athlete for much of your life. What’s your favorite form of exercise?
I’ve been a long distance runner since 8th grade, but I don’t run the same distances I used to. Since I had Cami, it’s hard to find the time to fit in 20-mile runs. But I do still run regularly, and will mix it in with my gym and barre classes. I like Bar Method and Pop Physique. Roni covers dad duty so I can fit in workouts a few times a week. Running helps with my anxiety and with transitions, like our recent move across the country. If I’m not breaking a sweat a couple times a week, I feel too high strung and wound too tightly. Exercise really alleviates my tension.

My Beauty Uniform: Nicki Sebastian

Do you have any major beauty inspirations?
I am mildly — no, wholly — obsessed with Kristen Wiig. For me, I see beauty in people who are unapologetically themselves. I’m drawn to people who are really funny, and I appreciate a crude and crass female. And I just think Kristen is the most gorgeous human being. She uses her whole body in her humor. Any hairstyle she has, I want.

My Beauty Uniform: Nicki Sebastian

Do you have any favorite rituals?
Once a week, I’ll go into the bathroom and close the door, so nobody can bother me, cat included. Now that we have a tub big enough to fit me, I’ll pour in some Aura Cacia Calming Lavender Foam Bath, put on my Aesop Parsley Seed Mask, slap on some Crest Whitestrips and pour a glass of white wine. I sit in the bath and drink my wine through the Whitestrips, which probably negates the effects of them, but oh well. It helps me reset.

My Beauty Uniform: Nicki Sebastian

How do you care for your hair?
After having a kid, I had massive postpartum hair loss, which was so alarming. People don’t talk about it that much, and I didn’t know it was a thing. My entire hairline faded. It was awful. I used to have thick hair, and now it’s a whole new head of hair. I frantically ran to my colorist, Chelsea at Pickthorn Salon, who recommended the supplement Viviscal. It’s made a world of difference for me. My head is now full of baby hairs, but they’re growing at a rapid rate.

My Beauty Uniform: Nicki Sebastian

What other products do you use?
I love Pomsmooth shampoo and conditioner. I can’t say everything I use is 100% organic, but I like that the Pomsmooth is free of parabens, sulfates, and lots of things I can’t pronounce. I need as much volume as I can, so after I shower, I use Living Proof Full Thickening Mousse, which I love so much I always keep an extra bottle in the house. Next, I blow dry it to around 75% dry, combing through with my fingers. Then I divide it into two sections like pigtails and clip it back into two buns. I’ll get Cami ready for school, and just when we’re about to head out, I’ll unclip them and have beachy waves. I try really hard not to wash my hair every day, so on the off days, I use Sachajuan Volume Powder. It’s technically for volume, but it works better than any dry shampoo. I spray my roots, then brush it through. It’s the only product I’ve ever tried that lets me go two or three days without washing.

My Beauty Uniform: Nicki Sebastian

What is your typical nighttime routine?
I’m so sad to admit that I don’t have a healthy nighttime routine. When Cami goes to bed, I crack open a bottle of Cava, which I always keep in the house. Roni and I will order in or make something, and then I usually spend the night editing photos. I’ll be looking at a screen until I close my eyes, which is something I really want to change. Sometimes Roni and I will break out the Dub Smash. I have to twist his arm, but then he gets into it.

Do you have any guilty pleasures?
Peanut Butter M&M’s. I keep a bag in my bedside drawer. I always eat them in bed, while watching Broad City. Roni hates it, but I love eating in bed. The problem is, I just don’t have an off button when I eat them. I can’t tell when I’m full. I’ve also convinced myself there’s some protein in them because of the peanut butter.

My Beauty Uniform: Nicki Sebastian

How do you approach beauty with a young daughter?
Cami’s definitely picked up on her mommy’s makeup routine. She has a recent obsession with “chopstick” (ChapStick), which I hope never changes. I haven’t yet outwardly said, “Makeup isn’t necessary, it’s a playful supplement, and it doesn’t mask who you really are.” But I think she’s picked up on it from my body language. She always qualifies her “chopstick” application by saying, “Don’t worry, Mommy, it’s just for decoration.”

My Beauty Uniform: Nicki Sebastian

What do you want Cami to learn about beauty as she grows older?
My father is a musician and he taught me how to listen — to hear a beat in seemingly mundane things. I still tap my feet to dripping water, my car’s turn signal, or even the sound of our coffee maker in the morning. I want Cami to have a similar upbringing, in that she learns to see beauty in countless forms — in sensations, experiences, moments, people’s quirks, things that don’t fit into any societally-dictated definition of beauty. I’m trying to facilitate this by exposing her to as many cultural resources as I can, and by always reminding myself to slow down, listen and ask questions when I’m with her. What does she see in that cloud formation? Why does she think the artist painted the canvas blue? Where does she think that ladybug is going? Beauty is relative, and it’s up to Cami to define it for herself — I just want to be there to open up her world as much as I’m able to.

My Beauty Uniform: Nicki Sebastian

Last but certainly not least: What is your overall beauty philosophy?
I never want to give up the kid in me. I sound like Elf when I say this, but I love laughing. I love surrounding myself with people who make me laugh, because that helps me feel beautiful. I also try to stay true to who I am. There’s this Martha Graham quote I’ve always hung onto, where she says, “There is only one of you in all of time, your expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost.” If you think about it that way, you have to put as much of yourself out into the world as possible. I think that’s a beautiful way of thinking. Whenever I get slightly off track with insecurities or comparisons or shoulds, I bring myself back to that quote. I have a responsibility to the world to live out my life as me, and I try to apply that to whatever I do.

My Beauty Uniform: Nicki Sebastian

Thank you so much, Nicki! We miss you!

P.S. More women share their beauty uniforms, and Caroline’s hair trick.

(Photos courtesy of Nicki Sebastian. First family portrait by Yan Palmer. Wedding photo by Our Labor of Love. Interview by Caroline Donofrio.)

  1. Alyssa says...

    I love this and the tips. I laughed out loud and loved that she is sporty. I bought the eye liner and mascara Nicki recommended. Thanks!

  2. I love this one!! Nicki seems SO great – thanks for introducing us to her! I do think she reminds me of Kristen Wiig – love that lady, too. (her website – too funny!!). Peanut butter m&ms DEF have protein in them. ;) Yay for funny beautiful inspiring ladies. (Question – will you do a beauty routine on someone who doesn’t really use many beauty products? I know it kind of defeats the purpose, but it would be more realistic imo b/c most of my friends and I don’t use many products! Now that I think about it Nicki seems that way too… so more like her please!)

  3. Kat says...

    Dropping in to say I bought the volume spray after reading this and it is truly fantastic!

  4. Eleanor says...

    Nicki is an absolutely fabulous person and one can see her very clearly through this interview….now I am hooked on your blog and read all the other stories!

  5. i love that this post was above nicki!!! i started following her on instagram earlier this year and have been loving seeing her family through her pictures!

  6. Jessica says...

    Where are her overalls from?! Love them!

    • sarah says...

      I also fancy the overalls! Would love to know where they’re from.

  7. I have loved this series so much! I don’t miss a single one! This one was my absolute favorite however. I was shocked to find that she uses the EXACT same eyeliner and mascara as me! I have also done a cat-eye since the 8th grade :) and I can attest to the fact that, that eyeliner is the best. Nothing else even comes close to it!

  8. I love this post! What a lovely woman–her sparkle is so evident in the words and photos. Thanks for featuring her!

  9. CG says...

    I’d love it if you’d feature a woman who only uses products from the drugstore. That’s all that has ever made sense for me to do, so I feel pretty alienated by these ladies who use obscure and expensive brands. But those of us who don’t budget as much toward beauty products like to feel pretty, too!

  10. Laura says...

    Holy cow you’re adorable!

  11. This was so good. So good. I don’t even know this woman and I feel like I’d miss her, too! :) Her thoughts on her daughter and beauty and the world and human experience– shoot, I’m printing it out, cutting out that specific bit, and throwing it in my wallet. Thank you!

  12. What a beautiful woman, I loved reading this.

  13. Lauren E. says...

    That Martha Graham quote really got me… Why am I always crying when I read this blog?! Love this one. Thanks for continuing this series – it’s one of my favorites.

  14. Yumi says...

    I literally laughed out loud when I read the part about Nicki drinking wine through her Crest Strips!! Love it!! Sounds like the perfect bath time ritual. And I’ve used that same Revlon eyeliner for years. It’s the best. Joanna, I really love the Beauty Uniform series so much! Thank you!

  15. Natalie says...

    This was a beauty uniform post, but it was her inner beauty that really shone through. Love what she said about finding the beauty in everyday things. Very inspiring!

  16. Gaby says...

    What neat heart warming person!

  17. “I’ve also convinced myself there’s some protein in them because of the peanut butter.” Can we please be friends?!? :)

  18. Jasna says...

    She is so cute!

  19. These just get better and better! I also second the ladies asking for a beauty uniform by someone in a “boring” job like mine (financial analyst) :)

  20. It grabbed my attention that she talked about her hair loss. I wish people would talk about this more often because it is so alarming and embarrassing and takes years to remedy. That’s a post I’d love to see one day. I am sure tons of women are dealing with it, but for some reason no one talks about it openly.

    • Lucy says...

      I agree, Beatrix! After I finished nursing my twins, my hair started falling out in handfuls. I’m going to try this product, but would be interested to hear how other womean handle it.

    • Laura says...

      Beatrix, I’m glad that she talked about it as well! I have been experiencing PP hair loss since our daughter was about 6-months-old. She recently weaned, and now it’s even worse. I hardly even have enough for a ponytail anymore! It was quite a shock when this started happening, although when it did, my ObGyn said it is very common.
      I have been hearing about Viviscal for years! However, it’s pretty pricey. Biotin is supposed to accomplish the same thing, but it’s a fraction of the price. A lot of people swear by Viviscal, though, so I’m wondering if it’s worth it to spring for it?

  21. this is such a cute post! I wonder if you could do a makeover contest collab with a makeup artist–bring in one of your reader fans for a makeover by a makeup artist.. that could be fun!

  22. Jenna says...

    Thank you.

  23. Keira says...

    This was an absolute joy to read. Love the Martha Graham quote at the end.
    Question: Does anyone know where that fabulous pink wall in one of the pictures is? Hope it’s somewhere public — I’m in love with it! :)

  24. Mary Allison says...

    I have been a friend of Nicki’s for a few years and she is as beautiful inside as she is outside…A gift to everyone she meets. And…the cat eye…is killer…

  25. Dana says...

    This was the perfect pick-me-up I needed after a hard day. Thank you for posting.

  26. Damn, this was a great one!

  27. This was a sweet read. I appreciate how she shares beauty with her daughter! And I want to bring back my cat eye now. ;)

  28. Sorry for the typo. I meant Joanna not “Joanne.”

  29. I follow Nicki Sebastian on Instagram ’cause I love her photography and now after reading this, I totally get why she is so inspiring. Thanks for doing this interview, Joanne (and team). Also, her beauty philosophy is so uplifting…I needed to hear it today. xo

  30. KCSB says...

    I don’t know Nicki but her husband is the kindest and coolest guy and she seems just as wonderful. What a beautiful family!

  31. Erin says...

    LOVE THIS WOMAN. She just talked me back into eyeliner. Thank you to every single one of these women for just being so awesome!

  32. Heather says...

    Oh wow, I just love this series. I totally want to be Nicki’s friend (is that weird to say?)! She just seems so real and down to earth, and fun. Plus, her nighttime ritual….yes….the tub, wine and whitestrips…..cava at night! Her little girl is adorable and you can just tell from the pictures that she loves her to pieces and just has so much joy!

    Plus, I am totally going to buy that eyeliner. Somehow I got brainwashed into thinking anything except $40 Chanel eyeliner will run….

  33. Love this soooooo much and I can personally attest to the fact that Nicki is not only beautiful inside and out but is a magician when it comes to eyeliner. (If I remember correctly, she did mine for my wedding day, too :) xoxo

  34. Foree says...

    This woman is a dreamboat. Love her and her philosophy!

  35. Haleigh Martin says...

    I love her skinny-leg overalls! Where can I buy them?

    • B says...

      Yes, me too!! Just pinned that pic! Anyone know where we can buy ;)

    • Jenna says...

      Yes hope she tells us where they are from!

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Hi Haleigh! :) They were from Madewell. Here is a similar pair:

      Hope this helps!
      Stella xx

  36. Kali says...

    I feel like everyone has the beauty uniform they relate most to and alas, this is mine. Kindred spirits … from everyday cat eye down to the white wine / white strips and PB M&Ms. I have two daughters as well and was inspired by her quote and philosophy on beauty especially in front of daughters. Loved it all.

    • Devon says...

      That is what I was thinking the whole time reading it. This girl reminds me so much of myself. Although she’s probably MUCH cooler ;) So Kali, that makes us kindred spirits, too! Nice to meet you!

  37. Ashley says...

    Really appreciated her honesty. Love this series!

  38. What a lovely post! Nicki seems so fun, funny, and down-to-earth. And no complicated beauty routines or products – just my style!

  39. Michaela says...

    I LOVED this beauty routine! I have had a very similar evolution of style and products, so I’m excited to pick up any of Nicki’s recommendations that I haven’t tried. Her look is so real but also polished.

    Love the quotes and philosophy as well, Nicki sounds like a beautiful woman inside and out.

  40. Natalie says...

    Bahaha, whitestrips and wine! This was amazing. Beauty uniforms are the best and Nicki is hilarious and down-to-earth. So many times I was reading this and saying, “yes, me too!” Like the massive post-partum hair loss (waah! thank goodness mine’s finally coming back), the best mascara (voluminous is the best! I had been using it for years and then weirdly developed an allergy to it… still searching for a replacement). I’m also not one of those ‘roll out of bed and go outside with no makeup’ people. I like how makeup looks on me, and I’ve been doing it the same way for years. Thanks, Cup of Jo team!

    • Aliya says...

      The mascara allergy thing totally happened to me too! I became allergic to my drugstore staple (falsies by maybelline) and a whole bunch of other mascaras. The only one I can wear now is They’re Real by Benefit. I have no idea why! Just throwing that out there if need some help with your hunt :)

    • Stephanie says...

      I used to use Voluminous too, but it started to irritate my eyes as well, now i use Pixi mascara in the mint green tube. They have similar bristles. Hope this helps!

  41. Alice Quin says...

    Love this! She is hilarious.

  42. Jess says...

    Aww I love how she said she loves laughing and it makes her feel more beautiful. I couldn’t agree more and I hope that when I am old and gray I have so many laugh lines that it always looks like I’m smiling even when I’m not.

  43. Theresa says...

    I loved this post! Thank you!

  44. To be honest, I have never read a beauty uniform post. I avidly read everything else, refreshing for new content often (!) I don’t know what drew me to finally click today (it could be the similar name?!) but I am so happy that of all days, I read Nicki’s. I love your philosophy on life & I really loved what you said about Kristin Wiig. I too am a huge fan, for those exact hilarious reasons, especially her being “unapologetically herself.” Running too is my “transitional blanket” if you will. I hope you’re enjoying California (from a fellow Californian). I recommend making some trips up north too, since you like wine :) Beautiful post of a beautiful woman!

  45. Gabriella says...

    So glad she got featured! I love following along with her on IG. x

  46. Eileen says...

    Love this! And duh, pb m&m is the best, I keep them in my car.

  47. Never met a more beautiful person, inside or out. And yes to Aesop Parsley Seed everything!

  48. I’m new to LA, too. And a runner (half marathons, I’m only half crazy)! Hope you’re settling in okay.

  49. Oh my, I love all of this so much.

  50. STEPHANIE says...

    Wow. Every time I think one of these posts is my favorite, the next one arrives and blows it away. I love Nicki’s outlook!

  51. Claire says...

    Loved this beauty routine. Nicki’s eyeliner is gorgeous, as is her overall beauty philosophy. To help out a stripe enthusiast, would you mind asking her where she got that great striped shirt in the Brooklyn bridge photo with her daughter? That’s basically my dream outfit, black jeans included. :)

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Hi Claire!
      Nicki says the striped shirt is J.Crew Factory from like 7 years ago :(. But here is a similar one:

      Hope that helps!

      Stella xx

  52. Beth says...

    “I saw a photo of a career-focused woman in the JCPenney catalog, . . . took it to my dad’s barber and said, ‘Can you do this to me?'”


  53. Rosie says...

    I loved this one! Ordering that dry shampoo as we speak!

    • Kerstin says...

      Buyer beware — the first three ingredients of Sachajuan Volume Powder are gases: butane, isobutane, and propane. These gases are liquified petroleum and are highly flammable — the same fuel I use in my little torches to make jewelry. At the very least, refrain from using around an open flame and be careful not to breathe these gases into your lungs.

  54. Juliana says...

    Love that quote! and everything about this beauty uniform x

  55. Emma says...

    Any insights on the dress (or a similar one) in the third-to-last photo? The midi dress in black/navy?


    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Hi Emma! Nicki says it was from Lou & Grey last year. Here is a similar one though:

      Hope that helps!

      Stella xx

  56. Awads says...

    i love this!! my problem with cracking open a bottle of cava (or any bubbly) is that i’d have to drink the whole bottle right then, by myself! (husband doesn’t go for that stuff). *sigh*…..need single serve bottles b/c that’s a problem for this early-morning runner!

  57. Jillian G says...

    no one has ever made me want a pair of overalls until now. love everything about nicki’s style. thanks for sharing!! xo

  58. Kimberley says...

    I love this series so much! But I particularly love this profile on Nicki because I appreciate how honest she is. It’s not all organic and perfect- there is red wine with Whitestrips and Peanut Butter M&Ms in bed. Keep rocking that eyeliner girl!

  59. Misty says...

    I think I could be obsessed with her look? Maybe? No, for sure.

  60. Aya says...

    This was so fun–I really enjoyed Nicki’s quirky honesty about her wine-white strips and peanut butter m&m’s. Something about her describing listening, finding a beat in the mundane and raising her daughter made me tear up. Thanks for sharing. That was fun!

  61. mosey says...

    Really loved this one! That Martha quote she lives by is wonderful and a great reminder.

  62. Emily says...

    What a wonderful, beautiful spirit! I love her. I can completely see why you cried when she moved!

  63. She sounds wonderfully fun and like she has her head on right. Also appreciate the tip for moms with less than thick locks👍🏻

  64. annie says...

    Why doesn’t anyone ever mention what eyeshadow they use in these series? It’s so bizarre. I know she is wearing shadow–I see it!

  65. amanda says...

    Bahahaha- my 2 1/2 year old is also obsessed with “chopstick.” It has to be “cherry chop,” though….

  66. I was thinking when this popped up in my feed that my favorite part might be getting to see the faces behind the names that pop up on Cup of Jo so often. Then I clicked through and realized I WENT TO COLLEGE WITH NICKI.

    Hi, Nicki! Your family is beautiful, your work is beautiful, you are beautiful!

  67. Rebecca says...

    great post! do you know where her overalls are from in second to last picture? <3 <3!!!

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Hi Rebecca! Thanks so much. They were from Madewell. Here is a similar pair:

      Hope this helps! Thanks again,
      Stella xox

    • Rebecca says...

      hi stella, wow you’re awesome and quick…thank you so much! will go check ’em out

  68. Shannon says...

    I love her sense of humor and realness. Relaxing in the tub with wine and whitestrips has my vote!

  69. The best part of this article is Cami’s “it’s just for decoration.” Beautiful!

  70. Noelle says...

    Wonderful! I LOVE this series. What a beautiful and fabulous woman (inside and out). I’m going into the bathroom now to put on some eyeliner :)